Abaco Island
© AFP/Getty
Abaco Island
The death toll from devastating Hurricane Dorian will be 'staggering' with thousands still missing, officials have warned amid reports looters are 'trying to shoot people' in the scramble for food and water.

Up to 70,000 are in need of 'life-saving assistance' while Great Abaco is said to be virtually uninhabitable, with bodies piled up and witnesses say there is a 'smell of death' with corpses floating in the water.

While the official death toll stands at 30, that number is expected to rise and hundreds of body bags have been ordered along with extra freezers.

A massive international relief effort was ramped up today as survivors revealed horrifying details of the 'apocalyptic' aftermath of the 185mph, Category-5 storm which hit the islands five days ago.

One survivor, Alicia Cooke, broke down in tears as she revealed: 'Everything is gone, people are starting to panic. Pillaging, looting, trying to shoot people for food and water. It's just no way everyone's going to get out.'

'No homes. No banks. No gas stations. No hardware stores. Everything is gone,' she added, as others said they feared the spread of disease.

Hundreds have gathered hoping to be evacuated today, but efforts have been complicated by flooded runways at Grand Bahama International Airport.

Great Abaco Island
© Getty
Damaged houses and debris is seen on devastated Great Abaco Island.
The British Government has pledged £1.5 million to help deliver aid, saying it is estimated that several hundred British nationals live in the worst affected areas of the Bahamas.

The Foreign Office said it is working to establish how badly they have been affected and deploying staff and members of the British Red Cross for 'emotional and practical support'.

A Royal Navy helicopter rescued three children, and a British person who was trapped beneath rubble for several days after the hurricane.

The Wildcat helicopter, operating from Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay - which has been stationed in the Caribbean since June in readiness for hurricane season, was flying over Great Abaco Island to assess the damage when its crew were called to rescue a casualty from Elbow Cay.

The crew pulled the person from the rubble and took them back to Mounts Bay to be given emergency medication before being airlifted to the capital Nassau.

The Royal Navy said that the Wildcat also rescued a woman, her two children and a baby, and took them to Nassau.

Addressing fears the death toll from the disaster will climb, Health Minister Duane Sands warned: 'Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering.'

Some locals called the government's initial official death toll a tragic underestimate.
hurricane survivors
© AP
Hundreds of people wait in Marsh Harbour Port to be evacuated to Nassau on Friday after the hurricane devastated the island.
Hundreds of desperate survivors gathered at the port in Great Abaco on Friday, hoping to get off the hurricane-devastated island, amid signs of rising frustration over the pace of the disaster-relief effort.

'It's chaos here,' said Gee Rolle, a 44-year-old construction worker who waited with his wife for a boat that could take them to the capital, Nassau.

'The government is trying their best, but at the same time, I don't think they're doing a good enough job to evacuate the people. It ain't liveable for nobody. Only animals can live here.'

There were no government-organised evacuations yet, but the Royal Bahamas Defence Force helped people board a 139ft ferry that had come to pick up its employees and had room for an additional 160 people.

The crowd waited calmly as marines separated women and children to let them board first.

Also, a barge that had dropped off portable toilets and heavy equipment in Abaco took some 300 people to Nassau.

Prime minister Hubert Minnis spoke to the crowd at the port, using a Creole interpreter for a group of Haitians awaiting evacuation, and assured them: "All of you will be treated with respect."

The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way, but officials warned of delays because of severe flooding.

'You smell the decomposing bodies as you walk through Marsh Harbour,' said Sandra Sweeting, 37, in an interview amid the wreckage on Great Abaco. 'It's everywhere. There are a lot of people who aren't going to make it off this island.'

'I work part-time in a funeral home, I know what death smells like,' said Anthony Thompson, 27. 'There must be hundreds. Hundreds.'

Extra security has been deployed with witnesses seeing residents breaking into liquor stores and supermarkets, carrying off goods in bags or filling their vehicles. Local militias have been formed to clamp down on the widespread looting.

The Minister of National Security was deployed to Abaco yesterday to establish order amid reports of looting. The island has been rendered uninhabitable by the storm.

Comment: Some call it looting, others call it survival.

The storm struck the island chain as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane on Sunday and stalled over Abaco and Grand Bahama for the following two days as 185mph winds and torrential rains ravaged countless communities.

There is not yet a government evacuation effort but Royal Navy ships and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force have offered a few spaces on some of their ships.
grounded boat
© AP
A boat sits grounded in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island.
Hundreds of people have turned up at the docks carrying bits of scavenged possessions in duffel bags piled in shopping carts.

'It's going to get crazy soon,' said Serge Simon, 39, who drives an ice truck and was waiting with his wife and two sons, aged five months old and four, at the port. 'There's no food, no water. There are bodies in the water. People are going to start getting sick.

A few hundred people sat at the partly flooded Leonard M. Thompson airport on Abaco island Thursday as small planes picked up the most vulnerable survivors, including the sick and the elderly.

The evacuation was slow and there was frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the Category five hurricane splintered whole neighborhoods.

'They told us that the babies, the pregnant people and the elderly people were supposed to be first preference,' said Lukya Thompson, a 23-year-old bartender. But many were still waiting, she said.

Despite hardship and uncertainty, those at the airport were mostly calm. The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way to help people in affected areas, though officials warned of delays because of severe flooding and limited access.

The victims are from Abaco and Grand Bahama islands and include some who died from injuries after being flown to New Providence island, he said.

The hurricane hit Abaco on Sunday and then hovered over Grand Bahama for a day and a half.

On Thursday, emergency officials fanned out across stricken areas to track down people who were missing or in distress. Crews began clearing streets and setting up aid distribution centers.

The United Nations announced the purchase of eight tons of ready-to-eat meals and said it will provide satellite communications equipment and airlift storage units, generators and prefab offices to set up logistics hubs. U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said about 70,000 people 'are in immediate need of life-saving assistance' on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

A British Royal Navy ship docked at Abaco and distributed supplies to hurricane survivors. On Grand Bahama, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship dropped off 10,000 meals, 10,000 bottles of water and more than 180 generators, as well as diapers and flashlights.

American Airlines said it flew a Boeing 737 from Miami to Nassau to drop off 14,000 pounds of relief supplies. The airline is also giving frequent-flyer points to customers who donate at least $25 to the Red Cross.

Troops from the Rhode Island National Guard will be heading to the Bahamas to help. The Guard will mobilize three C-130J cargo aircraft that will depart from the Quonset Air National Guard Base on Friday, state officials said

Some dazed survivors of Hurricane Dorian made their way back to a shantytown where they used to live, hoping to gather up some of their soggy belongings.

The community was known as The Mudd - or 'Da Mudd,' as it's often pronounced - and it was built by thousands of Haitian migrants over decades. It was razed in a matter of hours by Dorian, which reduced it to piles of splintered plywood and two-by-fours 4 and 5 feet deep, spread over an area equal to several football fields.

hurricane survivor
© AP
Aliana Alexis, of Haiti, stands in the wreckage of her home in a shantytown called The Mudd at Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island on Thursday.
A helicopter buzzed overhead as people picked through the debris, avoiding a body that lay tangled underneath a tree branch next to twisted sheets of corrugated metal, its hands stretched toward the sky. It was one of at least nine bodies that people said they had seen in the area.

'Ain't nobody come to get them,' said Cardot Ked, a 43-year-old carpenter from Haiti who has lived 25 years in Abaco. 'If we could get to the next island, that's the best thing we can do.'

Ked was one of thousands of desperate people seeking help in Dorian's aftermath. Crews in Grand Bahama worked to reopen the airport and used heavy equipment to pick up branches and palm fronds. Lines formed outside gas stations and grocery stores.

'People will be out of jobs for months,' 67-year-old wood carver Gordon Higgs lamented. 'They'll be homeless, no food. Nothing.'

Total property losses, not including infrastructure and autos, could reach $7 billion, the firm Karen Clark & Co. estimated.

On Thursday, medical officials moved hundreds of people left homeless by the storm out of the main hospital in Abaco to shelters in schools and other government buildings. Some were angry at being asked to leave, or at not being allowed to freely enter to visit hurt relatives, and a shouting match erupted at the main door between a small group of hurricane victims and Bahamian marines.

Abaco and Grand Bahama islands are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts and are home to many fishermen, laborers and hotel workers.

At the Leonard M. Thompson airport, Rashad Reckley, a 30-year-old saxophonist, played the Bob Marley song 'Three Little Birds' for people who had lost their homes.

'I want to lift up everybody's spirits after all the tragedy that happened,' said Reckley, who said he had exhausted his repertoire after playing for hours.

'They want me to play more,' Reckley said. 'But I can't think of songs to play.'

'All the main buildings, gone. It's gone. Everything is gone,' Robert Cornea, who has lived in Abaco for more than 50 years with his wife Phyllis, told CBS News.
Bahamian supermarket
© Reuters
A view of a looted supermarket after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on September 5. Militias have been formed to stop looting in the devastated Bahamas as the true impact of Hurricane Dorian begins to emerge
The couple have been homeless since Sunday.

'Take a picture of me because it's all I have left, what you see me in,' Phyllis Cornea said from the wreckage of her home.

'This is our Katrina moment,' Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands said Thursday.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Dorian left 'generational devastation' and asked for prayers for the thousands of families affected.

The Bahamian government sent hundreds of police and marines into the stricken islands, along with doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

The US Coast Guard, Britain's Royal Navy and relief organizations including the UN and the Red Cross joined the burgeoning effort to rush food and medicine to survivors and lift the most desperate people to safety by helicopter.

UN chief Lowcock said he told Prime Minister Hubert Minnis that he was releasing $1 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund immediately to deal with these priorities as well as for medical supplies and services for Grand Bahama.

He said the United Nations began gathering data Wednesday with officials in the region 'so we really understand where the most vulnerable people are and what their precise needs are.'

President Donald Trump has also offered his condolences and said the United States will provide all appropriate support to the people of the Bahamas during the Bahamian government's response to Hurricane Dorian.

An unknown number of people were trapped in their homes waiting for help as the storm passed and for days afterward.

Sylvia Cottis, 89, was inside her home at an Abaco beach club when the winds blew out the supposedly hurricane-proof windows, turning the glass into razor-sharp shrapnel that opened a wide gash on her knee.

For the next five days, Cottis and her caretaker, 58-year-old Kathryn Cartwright, were trapped in the house waiting for help as conditions worsened.

Cottis spent the days sitting in her wheelchair and the nights sleeping in a metal lawn lounger, surrounded by wet belongings and sewage from a septic tank that overflowed with floodwater and swamped her house.

The two women heard helicopters overhead and cars driving past, but the weather and massive flooding prevented any assistance.

Cartwright stayed with Cottis despite being worried about her own son and daughter, whom and had not heard from since the storm hit.

'I can't leave her here too long,' Cartwright told AP in a tearful interview from the wrecked home.

Help finally came on Wednesday when her neighbor Ben Allen and his friend pried open the jammed front door with a screwdriver to check on Cottis and Cartwright.

By then, the gash on Cottis' leg had become infected and swollen.

Allen, a 40-year-old construction worker and maintenance man, loaded Cottis into his minivan and took her to get medical attention.

They watched in horror as the minivan sped past broken cell towers, snapped power lines, trees stripped of their leaves, 30- to 40-foot boats thrown on top of buildings and metal shutters ripped off their frames and hurled into stores.

'Abaco is no more,' Allen told AP. Exactly a week ago, it was 'the most beautiful place you wanted to be', he said.

During the ride, Cartwright pointed out businesses she knew and homes that once belonged to her friends. Then she fell silent. 'Oh, my father, look at everything.'

Cartwright, still preoccupied with her children, said: 'I just want to see my son tonight.'

At that moment, the van drove through a pool of water, and a car coming the opposite way slowed down on the two-lane road. All of a sudden, Cartwright screamed: 'That's my son! That's my son!'

She hustled out of the car and swept the 29-year-old marine welder and father of two into her arms as she cried. She had not known until that moment if he was alive.

Her son, Carlton Nixon, informed her that 'the babies are okay', but that his daughter needed to be taken off of Abaco.

As they hugged and talked, cars started piling up on both sides and drivers began to honk. Cartwright and her son made plans to see each other later and went their separate ways.

The beat-up van continued to Marsh Harbour Healthcare Center, where Cottis was taken in for treatment.

Several hundred people are now temporarily living at the center, the island's main hospital.

Small children played outside amid coils of downed power lines while homeless families rested on the hospital's lawn.

Inside, people crammed into the entrances, the hallways, the waiting room. Small children slept sprawled out on sheets and unfurled sleeping bags while toddlers in diapers stood in a portable playpen in the hospital's driveway.

AP journalists observed a body tangled underneath a tree branch by twisted sheets of metal at The Mudd, a shantytown in Great Abaco island that was home to several thousand Haitian migrants before Dorian razed it.

Residents have reported seeing at least eight other bodies in the area.

Among those who lost a loved one in The Mudd was Benatace Pierre-Louis, 57, who collects and sells scrap metal. He said his sister-in-law died as she tried to escape the storm but got hit by plywood.

'They gone, but we can't do nothing,' he said, adding that Bahamian immigration officials visited The Mudd ahead of Dorian and told people to go to shelters for their safety.

Adrian Farrington said he is holding onto hope that his son will be found alive after the five-year-old was swept off a roof by surging floodwaters.

'I still can see my son getting dragged across the roof reaching up,' Farrington told CBS News.

'If he be rescued, praise the lord. But for the search, what I saw, when I lose him, anything could happen. You had sharks swimming in the water. Anything can happen.'

Officials are working to evacuate people to the capital in Nassau, but their efforts have been complicated by flooded runways at Grand Bahama International Airport.

Londa Sawyer stepped off a helicopter with her two children and two dogs on Wednesday after being rescued from Marsh Harbour, where she said 'it looks like a bomb hit.'

She said her home was completely flooded and that she and her family fled to a friend's home where the water came up past the second floor, carrying them up to within a few feet of the ceiling. She said she and her children and the dogs were floating on a mattress for about half an hour until the water started receding.

Sawyer said there was some looting but she didn't witness any violence.

Aerial footage showed scenes of catastrophic damage, with hundreds of homes missing roofs, cars submerged or overturned, widespread flooding and boats reduced to matchwood.

Bahamas residents 'endured hours and days of horror, fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones,' Minnis said.

After it left the Bahamas, Dorian regained strength as it pushed up the southeastern US coast as a Category 3 hurricane, lashing the Carolinas with tropical storm-force winds after millions of people were warned to clear out.

By Thursday morning, Dorian had still-dangerous 115 mph wind and was scraping the Carolinas with the potential for over a foot of rain in some spots by Friday.

Forecasters warned of a life-threatening storm surge along the coasts. The storm was centered about 70 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, moving north at 8 mph.

The US mainland recorded its first death in connection with the hurricane, that of an 85-year-old man in North Carolina who fell off a ladder while preparing his home for the storm. Dorian was also blamed for one death in Puerto Rico.